Introduction to Macbeth

Introduction to
“Double, Double, toil and
Fire burn and caldron bubble.”
Origin of the play…
• Written in 1606 as a compliment to King
James I (James VI of Scotland), after the
death of Queen Elizabeth.
• Refers to James’ ancestry (he’s a
descendant of Banquo)
• It became known as the “Scottish Play”
• James was interested in witchcraft and
Scotland, and hence the themes in the play.
• Believed to be a cursed
play—based on series of
accidents with those
involved with the play
• Subject matter of witchcraft
• When you mess with the
forces of evil---evil takes part
• Called “The Scottish Play”
Themes in Macbeth: #1
• The Corrupting Power of Unchecked
Ambition – ambition drives the couple to
terrible acts in the play. The problem is
that once a person uses violence to
acquire power it’s difficult to stop. In
order to gain more power or to stop
others it becomes tempting to use
violence again.
Themes in Macbeth: #2
• The Relationship between Cruelty
and Masculinity – in the play
violence and power are associated
with masculinity. In order to prove
one’s manhood they have to #1,
commit violent (usually
murderous) acts and #2 they must
acquire power
Themes in Macbeth: #3
• The Difference between Kingship and
Tyranny – the first, offers the kingdom
order, justice, comfort, affection and
most importantly loyalty to the country;
• the second, instigates chaos,
destruction, violence and holding their
own interests over that of their country
Motifs in Macbeth
• Hallucinations – recur throughout the play and
serve as reminders of the people who have died.
Essentially, visions symbolize their feelings of
• Violence – between the description of the bloody
wars, fights and murders, violence plays a major
role in the play
• Prophecy – these play major roles in instigating
the action in the play; the prophecies are what
set Macbeth’s plans into motion
Symbols in Macbeth
• Blood – is everywhere in the play, it
symbolizes the guilt that “sits like a
permanent stain on the consciences of
• The Weather – the storms, thunder,
lightening and unnatural occurrences in
the weather “reflect corruption in the
moral and political orders”
Main Characters - Macbeth
His three main characteristics
are bravery, ambition and selfdoubt.
Tragic flaws: ambition/selfdoubt
 Holds the title Thane of Glamis
 Shakespeare uses him to show
the terrible effects of ambition
and guilt on a man who lacks
strength of character
Main Characters – Lady Macbeth
 One of Shakespeare’s most
famous and villainous characters
 she is stronger, more ambitious
and more ruthless than Macbeth.
 Social restraints are the only
thing holding her back.
 Her character implies that women
can be as power-hungry and
violent as men, but their place in
society often denies them from
Main Characters –
The Three Witches
• Referred to as “the weird sisters”
• They have beards, speak in
rhyme and concoct bizarre
potions—they are clearly
supernatural creatures
• The audience is left to decide,
however, whether the Witches are
“independent agents toying with
human lives” or “agents of fate
whose prophecies are reports of
the inevitable”
• Duncan—King of Scotland, trustworthy
and loved by people..believes in and trusts
his noblemen
– Malcolm and Donalbain—sons of Duncan
• Banquo—A general in the army…He lives
by his morals and remains loyal to
alliances…brave and ambitious…not too
bright---has a son named Fleance
• Macduff—Thane of Fife
• Lennox, Ross, Angus, Menteith, Caithness
– All noblemen of Scotland
and tomorrow, and tomorrow/Creeps in
this petty pace from day to day…Out, out brief
candle!/Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor
player/That struts and frets his hour upon the
stage/And is heard no more.”
~ Macbeth
 “But cruel are the times, when we are traitors and do
not know ourselves; when we hold rumor from what
we fear, yet know not what we fear.” ~ Ross
 “Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent
under it.” ~ Lady Macbeth
 Your face is as a book, where men may read strange
matters.” ~ Lady Macbeth
 “Fair is foul and foul is fair.” ~Witches
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